Brrrr, it’s (genuinely) cold outside

Nov 16th, 2015 Boyhood, Life

Hard to believe, but it’s cold here in LA today.  The woolly hats entirely necessary.  No faux hipster styling here.  No beanie and scarf, while simultaneously wearing a T-shirt shenanigans.  It was genuinely cold.

Trying to get Skyer into a jacket was a challenge.  The hat even more so.  As he currently tends to do, he takes his steer from Jaxon, who, thankfully in this instance, is pretty tuned in to his personal comfort level.  As soon as Jaxon got a hint that it was fresh outside.  He bundled up.

Chilly Kids LA

Beachwood Boys Bundled up

Kids in Batman Hat

I have to say that personally, I’m sort of into this seasonal weather.  For one thing it gives me an opportunity to dig out some of my long neglected sweaters and jackets myself.  For another, there is more than something to be said for experiencing the “rhythm of the seasons”.  Maybe I am just still too cynical but I frequently find the irrepressible heat and sunshine taxing.  Like the bubbly travel companion who won’t stop talking, is always peppy and puts a positive spin on everything, LA weather tends to grind me down sometimes.  Jeez – I really am channeling the cynical today. And all it took was a hint of British weather to do it.  Guess we are all products of our environment.  Still, needn’t worry I’m told that it’l  be back up to 80 degrees by mid-week.  Crisis averted.

Jaxon really got into character with the whole biker jacket and NY hat attitude.

Cool kids fashion

Skyer needs little, or no, excuse to strike up a pose.  I’m not quite sure what this is.  Part yoga, part karate, part…who knows what…

Great leg stance though Sky.

Cool Kids Fashion

Off to school we go boys – “enjoy” this cold snap while it lasts.

Cool Kids Fashion

Halloween 2015: a tale of two costumes

Nov 4th, 2015 Entertainment, Life

I am personally a late comer to the whole phenomenon of Halloween.  Growing up in England it was not that big of a deal.  Now however.  Having kids.  In Southern California.  October 31st is a date that looms large on the calendar.

Trick or Treat is an institution here.  There is something undeniably magical and wondrous about walking around the neighborhood and being literally swamped by wave upon wave of miniature sized Batmans, Supermans, princesses and ghosts – of all ages – as you wander from one elaborately decorated house to another.  Each one more fantastical, welcoming and generous than the next.  As if there is an unspoken Halloweeners code to out-do each other.

It is impossible, for even the most cynical of hearts, not to be swept up in the theatricality of the whole event.  And it does feel like a real event.  As you join the masses of children shuffling along the sidewalk, and dodge the numerous children who are already experiencing sugar highs, it is impossible not to feel as though you are on the set of a Spielberg film.

For the first time – Jaxon had a costume change during the day.  Both boys began as rescue bots: Heatwave and Bumblebee respectively.

Heatwave and BumblebeeBumblebee Costume

Jaxon goes into fire truck mode as Heatwave.

Heatwave Costume

Skyer gets into racing car mode with Bumblebee.

Bumblebee Costume

By the afternoon, Jaxon had decided to ring the changes and – still embracing the whole rescue / helping theme that is so beloved of boys – became a policer officer.  An unarmed police officer it should be noted.  A sort of US / UK hybrid copper I guess.

Kids Police Costume

We began the afternoon at a party down the street.  It’s great to see all the kids compare costumes and swap accessories.  A plastic Captain America shield for a plastic Policeman’s badge. Sadly no plastic was lost or damaged as a result of these endeavors.

There was an attempt by the kids to “make mummies out of the mommies” and wrapt them up in toilet paper.  I decided to spare their blushes in this post.  In any case we the tables were quickly turned.

Jaxon broke free and exclaimed “I am the ice man!”

Kids Police Costume

We begin our pilgrimage for cheap confectionary that we will never actually eat.

Yes that is a giant inflatable black cat that visitors walked under to gain access to the house. Suitably spookily decked out inside I should add.  Don’t ask me what they do with the cat for the other 364 days of the year.  I don’t think it’s considered polite Halloween etiquette to ask.

Cool Halloween House

Surely some one engaged the services of a professional pumpkin carver at this house?  Or am I even less “crafty” than I previously thought?

Cool Pumpkin Display

It’s hard to capture how elaborate some these houses really are.  Here giant spiders, industrial amounts of fake cobwebs, tombstones and hanging ghouls lead the way.

Cool Halloween House

Skyer “on the streets” mid trick or treat.  Eyes firmly on the candy prize.  Pumpkin bucket locked and loaded.  I am not even going to attempt to wrestle with the mixed messages of accepting candy from strangers, begging for things in general, or, for that matter, the concept extortion (trick or treat?) that the night sends to kids!  My head will explode if I try.

Bumblebee Costume

Flying Solo

Oct 12th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life, Travel

My pre-planned trip to London is upon me.  An opportunity to catch up with family and friends as well as celebrate my sister’s birthday (more of which in a subsequent post).  I made the tactical decision to leave the boys at home.  From experience the jet lag is rough on both their little bodies – especially if traveling for a week as in this trip.  No sooner have they adjusted to the time difference than you are returning home and having to readjust all over again.  When we lived in NYC it was a little different, but the extra three hours time difference, not to mention the additional flight time, is rough.  So Beachwood Boys Club went international – but without two of its principals.

I should feel guilty.  I should feel as though I failed to give them an opportunity to travel to London, broaden their horizons and see friends and help them on to the path to becoming citizens of the world.  I should do.  But I cannot.  For one simple reason.  Two words.  Economy Plus.  Please note the second word and the emphasis given to it.  Yes Economy Plus on United Airlines on the outward journey was a revelation.  I suspect I would have been almost as content in good old economy, but there is something indulgent (although not excessively so like business class!) about the few additional inches of legroom offered by United Airlines Economy Plus service.  And all for the bargain price of less than $200.  There was also something about the fact that I was not going to have to share any of my space with small boys feet, shoes, toys and backpacks.  Yes flying solo really is the way to go.  I finally understood the allure of the endless road.  The simplicity of only one bag to check in.  The effortless breeze through security. The normal interminable trek to the departure gate felt like a ticker tape parade in celebration of wanderlust.  The walk through the aisle to my seat, usually a minefield of the arms and legs of impatient travelers was like taking a pleasant Sunday stroll through Hyde Park.  This was truly the only way to see the world.

And then I saw him.  The grinning, marauding toddler sat in my seat.  Sitting next to him, his father fidgeting nervously.  Momentarily thrown out of my near euphoric state, I remained composed – gave the dad the universal symbol for “I’m sitting there” – you know the one: the light throwaway point and patronizingly reassuring smile.  Delivered while mouthing the words “That’s my seat”.  Apologies were hastily made, blankets and pillows – already strewn on the floor – were gathered, tray tables duly restored to their upright, and locked, position and I settled in to the spot that was to be my world for the next eleven hours.

Within moments, the dad was fretting.  Urgently making small talk, his son had already upset the man who was sitting in front of him.  I knew that look.  That look of panic and fear that the dad was tethered to a small, uncontrollable maniac – also known as his son – in a confined space for eleven hours.  And that there was nothing he could do to control the situation.  Well, almost nothing.  I knew what was coming.  I’d been there.  I’d shared his pain and his fear.  But I had never actually done what my new companion was about to do to me.

“I think he’ll be better…” he began haltingly.  “Would you mind swapping with him?”  He blurted out.  “He’ll be better if we can contain him by the window.”   My precious window seat.  Chosen to better endure the, all too familiar, LAX to LHR red eye pain.  Advil PM after all can do only so much.  I was flying solo.  I was free and clear.  My moment to rest and relax and look forward to my trip.  All from the luxury of my contained Economy Plus (window) seat.

But it was useless.  It was all for naught.  I felt his pain and understood his predicament.  I had had my moment at the security line I reasoned.  That smug feeling that comes from being able to gather your laptop, shoes and belt from the other end of the x-Ray machine more efficiently than anyone else.  That had felt good.  Now it was time to pay it back.

So I relented. I gave up my precious widow seat and swapped with the kid and his dad.  I suspect that he wanted me to take his son’s middle seat, but I think he knew better than to push his luck at that moment.

        United Airways

Did it feel good?  Not really.  Was it the right thing to do?  Probably.  Did I do in hopes that I’ll get payback some time soon?  You better believe it.

Heathrow Airways

Landing solo at London’s Heathrow terminal 2.  Something somehow feels missing from the picture.  It’s too uncluttered.  Too un-frantic.

So we cracked, and finally ran a lemonade stand

Sep 16th, 2015 Boyhood, Life

What can I say?  It was insufferably hot, we’d talked about it a lot and got the boys worked up into a little bit of a frenzy about it (note to self: – never, ever, mention anything to a toddler in passing. They just don’t get the concept), and there were still enough hiker traffic to justify doing it.  And – moreover – it was for charity, thank you very much.  More Rachel’s idea than mine and at a price where we were practically giving it away (25 cents), we rolled out the pitchers, the buckets of ice, our home made sign and set up shop.

Dare I say it? – there’s money in them lemons!

First off to the market for provisions.  (Barbecue afterwards, just in case you were wondering what any of that stuff had to do with making a glass of lemonade.)

Kids at the supermarket

Then down to some serious sign making…

Kids Lemonade StandKids Lemonade Stand

Next – wait for the punters to start flocking.  And in fairness, they did.  A lot of tourists who really wanted to have their picture taken with the sign and the boys.  I guess they thought it was part of the “Americana” experience.

Kids Lemonade Stand

Or maybe it was the free (homemade) cookie that came with your cooling beverage?  All THIS for 25 cents I hear you ask?  As I said, I feel as though the business model needs some work if we are going to maximize opportunity and market share. There were reports of a rival stand down the street where they were charging upwards of 50 cents per glass.  A significant premium.

Kids Lemonade Stand

With all that being said, we still managed to turn a profit.  Off to count the takings…

Kids Lemonade Stand

Finally time for some after work front yard chalk art.  Jaxon calls this one “Space Monkey”.  I actually think this is pretty good.

Kids Chalk Art

(Back) to school haircuts

Sep 12th, 2015 Boyhood, Life, Self Discovery

God, I miss the seasons. It’s the end of summer and yet it’s still hot as hell and humid too. Thanks a lot SoCal. So much for dry desert heat. So not that you’d know it, but summer is over, and school has begun.

The early stages of childhood seem to be replete with milestones. I wonder if this is more for the parents’ benefit the child’s. To help us get a handle on the chaos and uncertainty that is busy unfolding – or perhaps more accurately sometimes – unraveling, before them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. Secondly, can you really use the word “milestones” when they are only two years old?  “Yard-pebbles” perhaps? Anyway, learning to crawl, first words, first time you get thrown up on…whatever momentous moments you choose for your timeline criteria charting – regardless – the first day at school has to be a legitimate marker whatever your criteria.  And that’s because it’s memorable for the child as well as the parent.

And so it was quite a moment for us all, when two year old Skyer – having followed his brother across the courtyard and through the corridors of school for the past two years, only to retrace his steps moment later – finally got to stay in his own classroom. With his own cubby. His own name tag. And his own teachers.

Such a moment necessitated (back) to school haircuts of course. Initially just for Skyer. But once Jaxon saw the reaction that Skyer’s new “do” got, he wanted to make sure he was in on the make-over action. So he got some sharper edges put on the sides and back for his first day back as well.

Nothing like a fresh trim to put a spring in your step.  And an extra bounce in your karate chop.

Back to School HaircutsBack to School Haircuts

A day at the office

Aug 6th, 2015 Fatherhood, Life, Self Discovery

Kids and work spaces tend not to mix terribly well.  Some times though there is no avoiding it. Fortunately I am lucky enough to work in a place, and with a bunch of people who are relaxed, flexible and accommodating enough to understand that some days you just have no alternative.

Jaxon was in summer camp for the week, which meant that after dropping him off I just had Skyer to look after.  Trouble was that the drop off time made me late for the studio.  With an hour to go before we started taping the show I had to address: final pre-production matters with the studio, jump on a conference call with the news editor, and make whatever final adjustments had to be made all while keeping Skyer variously (and in no particular order): entertained, quiet and alive.

I got lucky I have to admit.  I started him off with a pre-production beverage in the green room. That bought me some time and won some brownie points as I could tell he did not think I was going to remember his mid-morning drink of choice.

green room drinking

With that being said, I’ll freely admit that aspects of the conference call were tricky.  Especially as it was being conducted on the production manager’s iPhone on speaker mode, and the news editor on the other end with whom we were speaking was in an airport lounge in Boston waiting to board a flight to New York.  It also didn’t help that there green room where we conducted the call is an unsound-proofed room and that another show was recording live in the studio directly adjacent at the same time.  Whispered promises and bargains were hastily made in an ever increasing desperate attempt to keep Skyer quiet.  Yes, you can watch the iPad once I’m done.  Of course we can have ice cream later.  Yes we’ll go and look at that lego set you’ve been craving.  Forget having to set your children a good example, having infinite patience and boundless love for them.  What no one tells you, is that parenthood is a constant exercise in negotiation.  I feel as though I am auditioning for the role of a junior Councillor at the United Nations.  Before having kids I couldn’t tell you the last time I truly had to bargain with some one.  Where the stakes were high, the vested interest was extreme for both parties and discussions had to be both clear and forthright, yet also delicately managed so as to avoid gaining a reputation for capitulation.    I have never sought to lie and manipulate (and ironically be manipulated) on such a consistent basis until I became a father.

At the end of the conference call, just after the studio production team had come in to the green room for third time to ask us to keep the noise down, I caught a break.  The night before, the pair of them had refused to go to bed until waaaaayyy past their bedtime. (Am I the only one, or isn’t it frequently the case that kids  possess a sixth sense when a significant deadline approaches for a parent? And that, perhaps feeling threatened, their reaction is to seek to compete for attention, even if that means by misbehaving?)  Anyway – enough pop psychology for one post – the end result was that a seriously fatigued Skyer suddenly – and uncharacteristically – crashed out asleep.

Green room sleepingI did not know how long he would stay down, and I felt bad about leaving him of the floor of the green room – but, I reasoned that to try to move him would be a fool’s errand.

Part way through our record that day he woke up.  But his timing was perfect as we were just coming to the end of a segment when he did.  He cried out a little emerging a moment later in the studio as if to say “what you started without me?”

He stayed with us in the studio.  Any experienced negotiator will tell you that at some point you have to cut your losses and reduce your position to bare absolutes.  This was that moment. Through a combination of bedazzlement, bewilderment and fascination we made it through the rest of the mornings recording with an extra onlooker sitting quietly by the control desk.   I have no doubt that the reason for this was the fact that Skyer absolutely and fundamentally understood what we were doing.  It was as beautifully simple and eloquent as anything we managed to capture on film that day.

TheLipTV

Minions – opening weekend

Jul 13th, 2015 Entertainment, Life

As both Rachel and I were feeling a little under weather, we elected to take the boys see the new movie Minions on its opening weekend. A bit of a cop out, but at least I could not be accused of dragging my kids to a movie that secretly I wanted to see but couldn’t in good conscience attend on my own. Don’t get me wrong I like cartoons – oops showing my age again – sorry I like animated movies – if done well: Cars 2, Toy Story 1,2 and 3 and The Lego Movie in particular – but the Minions, as cute as they are, leave me feeling a little disconnected and cold. So it was somewhat of a struggle to commit to the Dome theater on Sunset, the outside of which had been entirely decorated in minion yellow – for two hours at the weekend. By Hollywood standards this is an historic theater – having been built in 1963. If they think that is vintage, no wonder I am starting to feel a little old! I mean, I do have a few years on the good old Dome Theater – but still.

In truth, I think my two year old, Skyer, got more out of the movie than the rest of us. Maybe it was that he connected with the Minions incessant babble that everyone else finds “adorable” better than us, or the fact that the film being set in London (sorry spoiler alert) made him feel oddly at ease, or maybe it was the fact that by the time we got to the very loud chase at the end – one which made Jaxon so anxious that he curled up on to my lap like a spindly cat – he was more interested in trying to snag popcorn from the people sitting in front of us. Whatever it was, Skyer’s Minions experience was the best.

Interestingly, the pre-screening entertainment and activities of: Minion coloring and activity sheets, Minion tattoos, and posing in front of life sized Minion statues for photos were, in my opinion, the best part of the entire visit. In fact, when the time came to get into the theater, Jaxon was only part the way through coloring in his Minion character sheet and was none too thrilled at the prospect of having his endeavors interrupted in order to go and see the actual movie.   We had to promise him faithfully that we would come back after the movie and allow him to finish just to be able to get him to leave and watch the film.

minions

 

IMG_0518 (2)

There is something unique about the hearing and seeing your child react to something that some one – other than you or they – have said or done that they think is funny. For the most part, my boys’ humor is derived from themselves, or from me or Rachel; so there is a moment of true wonderment as a parent when you watch your child legitimately react and laugh at something that is not of their own creation, and that they think is funny. So for all its faults (and there were many) the Minions gave me a couple those very particular and unique moments.